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The Ghost Writer - Flight Path Theatre (NSW)

Written by Ross Mueller. Directed by Jane Angharad. Presented by Crying Chair Theatre in association with Secret House.


Reviewed by Juliana Payne

Flight Path Theatre, Marrickville

Dates: until March 16th 2024


- A performance that will reward an audience who is ready to face up to the complexity and contradiction of human nature -


The title of the play The Ghost Writer gives a massive hint as to one of the abiding tropes of the play. There are ghosts galore, real, imagined and metaphoric; and at the heart of it all is a tragically murdered little girl. Her mother, Brihanna, sees and hears her ghost and wants most of all for the murderer to be exposed. She thinks she can kill a few birds with one stone by telling her story in a novel that will be sure to be a best-seller, and her avaricious publisher agrees. They need a ghost writer, however that’s where things get complicated. The only person who can succeed at this job is the publisher’s daughter Claudia, who has a fraught relationship with her father and her own ghosts to grapple with.


Oh - and she also happens to be having an affair with the public prosecutor who brought an unsuccessful charge against the wrong man for the little girl’s murder and is haunted by the many souls he could not save. The audience soon realised it was going to be a very bumpy night.


Photos by Braiden Toko


I’ve seen director Jane Angharad’s impressive work as an actress and director develop over the years, and she has taken on a very ambitious project in The Ghost Writer. With four complex characters whose overlapping relationships, obsessions and neuroses drive the play’s action and suspense, it’s no mean feat for a director. By and large she manages to present an engaging and compellingly watchable play - although some editing could help to keep the pacing faster - and toward the end when we have already figured out the ironic plot twist, it could be tightened up. The combination of rain and mist in James Smithers’ set is a wonderful touch to augment the film noir inspired feel. Lighting by Travis Kecek could possibly benefit from toning down some of the glaringly bright spots on centre stage to help keep us in the dark moody noir zone.


Fans of Scandi-noir will enjoy this slow-burn tale that unfolds on stage

The cast acquitted themselves very well, and the few opening night jitters will smooth out in no time. The script is naturalistic, and they handled the many scenes with overlapping dialogue very well – this element could go very wrong with less able actors. In spite of the dark plot and themes, Ross Mueller peppers the dialogue with wry and sardonic one-liners that are welcome interludes of gallows humour. Mel Day as Claudia brings the brittle, bitter character to life as we slowly realise what’s going on with her. There’s real chemistry between her and Shan-Ree Tan, the prosecutor, as their relationship becomes something more than an anonymous booty call. Tan’s mellifluous voice is wonderful to hear. Mark Langham as the rapacious publisher gets most of the dark laughs and he too eventually reveals all the evil deeds that are his ghosts. Emma Dalton’s Brihanna depicts the driven, single-minded obsession she has to tell the truth. As the poorly educated bogan of the group, she brings her own sense of pride, determination and ultimately tragedy in response to the mockery and condescension she’s subject to.


Fans of Scandi-noir will enjoy this slow-burn tale that unfolds on stage. This is a performance that will reward an audience who is ready to face up to the complexity and contradiction of human nature, where there are no black and white answers and no easy solutions to our problems.


 

CAST AND CREATIVES


Writer: Ross Mueller

Producer: Crying Chair Theatre in association with Secret House

Director: Jane Angharad

Designer: James Smithers

Lighting Designer: Travis Kecek

Film and Photographer: Braiden Toko

Cast: Mel Day, Emma Dalton, Mark Langham, Shan-Ree Tan.


 




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